ATLANTA — With the recent death of Georgia’s beloved mascot and a slew of football players arrested, what will victory sound like this season for Georgia, ranked No. 1 in several preseason polls?
Melodious. At least that’s what the school hopes as it works to restore its 173-year-old Chapel bell before the football opener on Aug. 30.
Fans have long had free rein to ring the bell after Georgia victories — and about any other time in the day — but some get a bit too caught up in the celebration. After Georgia’s victory over Florida in October, rambunctious fans rang the 700-pound bell so hard that it fell from its perch onto a wooden platform below.
Now employees are working to ensure the legendary bell is ready for fans this season, and staffers with the Verdin Company hope they made its chimes even crisper.
The restoration cost the university $14,000, said Thomas Satterly, UGA physical plant’s assistant vice president. Its new wooden tower has a "modern design" and similar size to the old tower, he said.
School planners say the bell is tentatively set to be placed in the tower on Aug. 13 — two weeks before Georgia’s season opener.
This season is set to begin with unprecedented excitement. Georgia is ranked preseason No. 1 in the USA Today/Coaches’ poll, despite the offseason suspensions or dismissals of six players. And fans already reeling from the June death of mascot Uga VI are eager for the bell’s return.
Four Ohio repairmen worked on the bell for 30 days, said Dave Verdin, vice president of a Cincinnati-based company that specializes in bell repair. Workers polished the bell, strengthened its broken yoke and replaced two A-frames. The clapper, the device that hits the inside to make sound, was replaced with bronze instead of the bell’s original steel.
"It will hopefully be like a new bell," Verdin said. "It will sound better because the new clapper will bring out fundamentals of the bell."
After the October 2007 accident, workers in the UGA welding shop made a quick-fix to the bell, but a new yoke was still needed. It was removed in April and temporarily replaced with a bell from a nearby dining hall.
The original bell crowned the chapel roof in a tower until the tower rotted and was removed in 1913. In the early 1900s, the chiming of the bell signaled class changes and mandatory religious services. During World War II, it was used as an air raid signal.
The bell was first cracked in 1911 by enthusiastic fans. Fans later broke the rope in 1981 after Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory over Notre Dame.
Dan Magill, a former tennis coach and sports information director, rang the bell for the first time in 1929. He was so small the weight of the massive bell pulled him up, but it’s a memory that’s still fresh almost 80 years later.
"It was after we beat Yale the day of the dedication of Stanford," Magill said. "I was only eight, so I couldn’t reach the rope and one of the boys picked me up and let me ring it."